Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica Scientific name definitions

Brad M. Walker, Nathan R. Senner, Chris S. Elphick, and Joanna Klima
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated October 21, 2011

Demography and Populations

Measures of Breeding Activity

Age At First Breeding; Intervals Between Breeding

Two of 227 banded chicks returned in first two years after hatch, although it is unknown whether or not they bred (Senner et al. unpubl.). Other godwits usually breed first at 2 yr old, occasionally 1 yr old (e.g., Haverschmidt 1963, Cramp and Simmons 1983); probably annually thereafter (e.g., Gratto-Trevor 2000).


Typically lays 4 eggs. See Breeding: eggs, above.

Annual And Lifetime Reproductive Success

Few data. At Churchill, reports of 83% hatching success (30/36 eggs hatched, from 10 nests) in early 1960s (Hagar 1966) and 85% success (39/46 eggs, 12 nests) during 1964–1967 (Jehl 1971b). At Susitna Flats, hatching success was 95% (52/55, 15 nests) (Senner et al. unpubl.).

No information on lifetime reproductive success or on variables that influence reproductive success.

Number Of Broods Normally Reared Per Season

Never >1 documented; see Breeding: phenology, above.

Proportion Of Total Females That Rear At Least One Brood To Nest-Leaving Or Independence

In Churchill, ONT, 18% (n = 33) of females had at least one chick fledge (Senner et al. unpubl.).

Life Span and Survivorship

Unknown. Similar-sized Marbled Godwit can live to 29 yr and has annual survival rates estimated as 87% and 96% (Colwell et al., Colwell et al. 1995, Gratto-Trevor 2000). Minimum adult survival rates (i.e., banding return rates) for 8 large shorebird species, including Black-tailed and Bar-tailed godwits, averaged 76% per year (Reed et al. 1998d).

Disease and Body Parasites


No information.

Body Parasites

Little information. No nematodes (Habronematoidea, Acuarioidea) in 3 birds sampled (Wong and Anderson Wong and Anderson 1990b, Wong and Anderson 1991a). Two species of lice, Lunaceps paschalis and Rotundiceps cordatus, reported in a major review of Mallophaga (Malcolmson 1960). Feather mites (Alloptes sp.) also found on birds at Churchill (McClure 1943a).

Causes of Mortality

Little information. Incubating adults taken by foxes from 3 of 36 nests at Churchill (Jehl 1971b, J. R. Jehl, Jr. pers. comm., JK). Adults taken, at least occasionally, by Gyrfalcon (Kuyt 1980). In both Churchill and Sustina Flats, Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) have been observed taking incubating adults. One bird found with mussel attached to its leg and, consequently, unable to fly until the mussel was removed (Andrews 1954, cited in Thompson and Ely 1989).

Population Spatial Metrics

Initial Dispersal From Natal Site

Two of 227 chicks were resighted at their natal site within 2 yr after hatch (Senner et al. unpubl.). In other godwits, banded chicks occasionally resighted near their banding site (Colwell and Oring 1988b, Gratto-Trevor 2000), with males nesting closer to their hatching site than females in Black-tailed Godwit (Groen 1993).

Fidelity To Breeding Site And Winter Home Range

Few data. Territories often reoccupied from year to year, and several instances of banded birds returning to their previous breeding sites (including both members of a pair in 3 consecutive years), demonstrate that site fidelity occurs (Gill and Tibbitts 1999, L. Tibbitts unpubl., J. R. Jehl, Jr., pers. comm., JK). In Black-tailed Godwit return rates to breeding areas 78% for males, 69% for females (Jonas 1979).

Most of the world's population winters at 2 disjunct sites: with Alaskan breeders on the Pacific coast of South America and Manitoba breeders on the Atlantic coast, suggesting that fidelity to nonbreeding sites is high, but there is little information on movement among wintering sites or fidelity to home range sites. One Churchill bird equipped with a data logger for two years returned to the same non-breeding site (Bahía Blanca; Senner et al. unpubl.).

Dispersal From Breeding Site

No direct information. Genetic studies indicate little dispersal among main breeding populations (Haig et al. 1997).

Home Range

Little information. Based on observations of territorial males and adults with broods, maximum breeding density estimated as 1 pair/15–20 ha at Churchill (J. R. Jehl, Jr., pers. comm.). At Susitna Flats, AK, however, 2 nests were approximately 200–300 m from each other (CSE). Home range of birds breeding at Susitna Flats includes disjunct nesting and foraging sites, with birds traveling from spruce bogs to tidal mudflats to feed during the incubation period (mean distance moved 2.9 km [range 2.7–3.1, n = 5 pairs]); females continued to make these trips after eggs hatched (Gill and Tibbitts 1999).

Population Status


From 1982 to 1986, an estimated 45,500 individuals were found during exhaustive aerial surveys of the South American coastline (Morrison and Ross 1989a). More recent aerial surveys in Bahía Lomas (on Tierra del Fuego), combined with ground counts of Isla Chiloé (2002-2005), have provided a mean estimate of 35,000 individuals (Espinosa et al. 2006). These counts did not include a number of sites on Isla Chiloé, nor did they include Bahía San Sebastían (on Tierra del Fuego) or Bahía Samborombon, all of which potentially harbor large wintering concentrations (Andres et al. 2009). Taking all of this into consideration, a more accurate estimate is likely 50,000-70,000 individuals (Morrison et al. 2006).

Counts from elsewhere may provide important information on size of different breeding populations. During fall migration, >10,000 estimated at James Bay; 8,800 on Pen I., Hudson Bay; 3,400 at Luck Lake, SK; 2,900 at Quill Lakes, SK; and 2,000 at Porter Lake, SK (Morrison and Harrington 1979, Morrison et al. 1995b, Alexander and Gratto-Trevor 1997, G. Beyersbergen unpubl. data). Up to several hundred Hudsonian Godwits also found along the coast of Hudson Bay between Churchill and the Manitoba-Ontario border, at Oak Hammock Marsh, MB, and at other lakes in Saskatchewan (Morrison et al. 1995b, W. Renaud and G. Beyersbergen unpubl. data). In Alaska, as many as 5,000 individuals may stage at Aropuk Lake in the w. Yukon Delta (McCaffery et al. 2005); hundreds occur during late summer at Carter Spit on the southeast shore of Kuskokwim Bay (Seppi 1995) and in Cook Inlet (Gill and Tibbitts 1999); hundreds, possibly low thousands, also use Cook Inlet during spring (Gill and Tibbitts 1999).

Due to the high dispersion of pairs within breeding areas, surveys on breeding grounds give information on only a tiny fraction of the total population, and data are difficult to obtain. Nesting population of Churchill region has been estimated as 50–55 pairs within a study area of approximately 7,000 ha (W. Lin and J. R. Jehl, Jr., unpubl.). Densities on the outer Mackenzie Delta, NWT, estimated as average of 2.4 pairs/km2 in sedge habitat (n = 30 plots, each 200 × 200 m) and 1.0 pairs/km2 in wet sedge/willow or emergent habitat (23 plots); species was absent from upland tundra (15 plots) and tall wet-willow (10 plots) habitats. Population of the entire outer delta was estimated as 2,543 pairs within 3,988 km2, based on extrapolation using Landsat estimates of each habitat's area (Gratto-Trevor Gratto-Trevor 1996, Gratto-Trevor 1996).

Based on recent tracking data and band recoveries strongly linking Alaska breeding birds to those wintering on Isla Chiloé, the Alaskan population likely numbers >20,000 individuals (Andres et al. 2009; Senner and Johnson unpubl.). However the allocation of these individuals to different breeding populations within Alaska remains difficult. No data from other localities.


Few data and no current monitoring program adequate to document population-wide changes. Thought to have declined earlier in the century: e.g., fewer birds seen in the vicinity of Buenos Aires in the 1920s than were reported 50 yr earlier; this change attributed to hunting (Wetmore Wetmore 1926c, Wetmore 1927b). Reports of endangerment from North America in the early 1900s, and apparent changes in population size, have been difficult to assess because there have not been regular surveys at major staging or wintering sites. At Churchill, considered “very rare” in the 1930s (Taverner and Sutton 1934) and “common” in the 1960s (Hagar 1966, Jehl and Smith 1970). Over-all change between 1930 and 1990 described as a “great increase” (W. Lin and J. R. Jehl, Jr., unpubl.).

Numbers in James and Hudson bays reported to have declined between the late 1970s and early 1990s (Morrison 1991). In the 25 yr in between Morrison and Ross's comprehensive aerial surveys and those undertaken by Andres et al. (2009), the number of total birds using Isla Chiloé and the adjacent mainland did not significantly decline, although the number of sites used by >1% of the flyway population did. This decline in site usage has, in part, prompted the creation of a long-term monitoring scheme in the region that should lead to a more accurate assessment of flyway population trends (Andres, Johnson, Senner unpubl.).

Population Regulation

No information.

Recommended Citation

Walker, B. M., N. R. Senner, C. S. Elphick, and J. Klima (2020). Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.hudgod.01